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Sri Lanka’s bomb carnage could end tourism boom

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COLOMBO: With its capital under curfew following devastating Easter Sunday bomb attacks, tourists who have been flocking to the Indian Ocean island could cancel in droves.

A tweet posted on the travel booking website First Choice captured the trepidation among holidaymakers.

"What are you doing about the holidays you have booked to that country?" tourist Judith Ann Clayton asked on the social media site. "Clearly it is unsafe for anyone to go there."

Others set to travel said they would not to be cowed into cancelling.

"Not giving in to terror. We want to support you in your time of need. Never gave any thought about cancelling our trip," Facebook user John Karmouche said in a post.

Named by the Lonely Planet guide for independent travellers as the best country to visit in 2019, Sri Lanka had rebuilt its image as a tropical paradise after crushing a long-running separatist insurgency by ethnic minority Tamils a decade ago.

Visitor arrivals of 2.3 million last year were up by more than 400 per cent from 2009, according to Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority data.

But the recent attacks have in all likelihood ended the boom in tourism for some time.

At Colombo airport, departing holidaymakers were relieved to be getting out.

"There have been a lot of messages from home," said British teacher James Turner, who was leading a school cricket tour.

Tourists were also arriving but many said they would steer clear of the capital.

"We're getting straight out of Colombo," said Briton Ruth Adams, on holiday with her two children., one of India's largest travel booking portals, said in a statement that it was too early to quantify the impact of the attacks on tourist traffic to Sri Lanka, but anticipated that some would defer travel or go elsewhere. - REUTERS